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Which Online Guitar Lessons Are Best For You?


In the last article (Why Choose Online Guitar Lessons?), we looked at some of the reasons why learning to play the guitar online is – and isn’t – a great idea. If you’re now interested in online guitar lessons, but aren’t sure where to begin, read on. The choice can seem overwhelming, and since people are looking for different things, there’s no one guitar lessons site that is best for everyone. However, there are some things that you’ll need to consider when choosing online guitar lessons, and this article provides a guide.

Free or Paid?

The first decision to make is whether to go for free internet guitar lessons, or sign up for a paid course. To a large extent you get what you pay for, and much of the free material just isn’t very good (with poor quality materials, lack of structure, failure to cover all the necessary techniques etc). On the other hand, some of it is of high quality, and conversely, just because someone is charging for their material, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s of good quality. So, what to do?

The most important thing to look for (particularly for a beginner), is a course of lessons that is structured in a logical way, so you can develop all the essential core guitar skills, and progress in an efficient manner. The good quality paid courses are put together by experienced teachers who understand this, but much of the free material isn’t – instead, you learn a bit of this and a bit of that (often in a seemingly random manner, depending on the teacher’s own personal interests and biases). This isn’t a good thing, because you might miss out on important instruction that you need to develop a solid technique. Not all free lessons are lacking in this way, but many are, so be wary of trying to piece together your own learning program from free material across the web – you’ll get a lot more benefit from using a professionally structured course that covers all the necessary material in the right sequence.

So, with some exceptions, paid online guitar courses are often more professionally put together, and more complete in terms of what they offer. A course aimed at beginners should cover the fundamental skills in depth, and many show you more advanced techniques too. In addition, the site, video and audio material should be professionally produced and easy to use. There are lots of courses that fulfil there requirements, so if you’ve decided to go for online lessons, it’s best to take a look at several options (whether free or paid), before making a commitment. Check out the Guitar Lesson & Training Directory on this site, which has a large list of online guitar courses.

Experience Level of the Teacher

You also need to choose a teacher who is a skilled guitarist – you certainly don’t want to be taking advice from someone who hasn’t been playing for very long themselves. The web is a great way for anyone to post content and share their expertise, but unfortunately it also means that anyone can pretend to be something they’re not, and the guitar instruction you find online (especially the free variety) does vary hugely in quality as a result, so do your due diligence before following anyone’s online lessons, and check out their experience and credentials first.

Teaching/Communication Skills

Another thing to be aware of is that not all great guitarists are great teachers. Some have fantastic skills but lack the ability to effectively communicate them to others. So look for online guitar lessons that are not only taught by skilled guitarist(s), but which are also taught in a very clear, effective manner – if they’re not, the lessons won’t be very enjoyable, and chances are you won’t stick with them for long, no matter how impressive the teacher’s technique.

Quality of the Materials

figure with question markRelated to the above point is the issue of quality of the learning materials – you won’t make much progress if you’re trying to learn from poor quality lessons. So when checking out potential guitar courses, look for quality in both the content and the presentation. In terms of content, the course should clearly explain everything you need to know at each stage, and it should be put together in a logical manner, so each new skill builds on what you’ve already learned. In terms of presentation, the materials themselves should be well produced, with well-written and clearly laid out text, clear illustrations, well-recorded video and audio material with good sound and visuals, and software that works like it’s supposed to, without bugs and crashes. Even if a guitar course has fantastic content, you probably won’t get far if it looks or sounds awful – and on the other hand, flashily produced material isn’t a substitute for great content. So make sure that the course you choose has both.

Site Usability

The site on which your guitar lessons are hosted should also be of good quality – meaning fast to load, easy to navigate and with limited downtime. This is especially true of sites that offer lessons on a membership basis, where you go online to access the material, rather than downloading it to your PC. So while the content of the lessons is the most important thing, and a less than perfect site needn’t be a deal breaker if the lessons are downloadable, ideally they should be presented on a professionally designed site that is easy to use.

Your Experience Level

You should also consider your own experience level. Not everyone looking for guitar lessons online is a complete beginner, and if that is the case with you, you may not want a course that is aimed at total beginners. On the other hand, if you’re a bit rusty it can be a good idea to revisit the basics (for that matter, guitarists at all levels can benefit by periodically doing this). You’ll find that many online guitar courses are tailored to beginners, but there are also some that are aimed at more advanced guitarists. There are also other courses that focus on developing specific styles or techniques to an advanced level – see the directory for more details.

Format of the Materials

Most high quality internet guitar lessons combine text, video and audio recordings, and sometimes software too. This mixed media approach makes online lessons suitable for a wide audience, as different people learn in different ways. Video is particularly useful, as it means you can see exactly what you should be doing in real time, rather than trying to figure it out from pictures and written instructions, as in traditional tutor books. This can really help to speed up the learning process, and is almost as good as being in the room with a personal teacher (in fact it’s better in some ways, since you can repeat segments as many times as you like!). Audio is also good for showing you how the music should sound, and gives you an opportunity to jam along too, so you can learn to improvise and play with others. And software can help with many musical skills, such as reading music and TAB, tuning, and ear training.

You should also check to see if the material is downloadable, or if it has to be accessed online. Downloads are more flexible, as you don’t need to be online when practising, but if you travel around a lot (or don’t have much storage space on your PC), online access could be more useful. With some courses you get access to a member’s area where you can both download the materials or view online, so you get the best of both worlds. So when deciding which internet lessons to choose, look for the format you prefer, and ideally those which incorporate a variety of media.

Course Contents

The next thing to consider is the actual contents of the course. If you’re a complete beginner, look for lessons that cover all of the fundamentals of guitar playing, including posture, chords, individual notes, scales, arpeggios and technical exercises, TAB (and preferably notation also), strumming, finger picking, playing songs and other music, playing with others, improvisation, ear training, guitar maintenance, and so on. If your skills are more advanced, you might want a course that offers more specialised instruction in specific areas of interest, such as lead guitar or blues guitar. So make sure that the course(s) you’re considering actually cover the things you want and need to learn at this stage of your development as a guitarist.

Cost

Cost will be an issue for most people. Of course, if you opt for free online guitar lessons, the money won’t be a problem (though the cost to your development as a guitarist could be significant, if you choose the wrong ones). But if you opt for paid lessons, the price can vary a lot, and the most expensive courses aren’t necessarily always the best either. Some of the more costly lessons provide the teaching material in physical format rather than (or as well as) downloads, which is preferred by many people. But those on a budget will probably want to choose a course that is 100% digital, as these are generally cheaper. It’s worth remembering that even the most expensive online guitar lessons are much cheaper than ongoing private lessons with a teacher.

Payment Options

Most paid online lessons have a one-time fee (often in the $40 – $100 range), and after you’ve paid this, you’ll have full access to the materials, and usually to all future updates too. This is a great deal, especially when you consider that in many areas, a single one hour lesson with a private teacher will cost $30 or more! However, some teachers offer their material via a membership site, where you are charged a monthly fee for ongoing access to the lessons (discounts may be available if you pay quarterly or annually). This can be more expensive, although again, it’s much cheaper than what you’d pay for the equivalent amount of instruction via private lessons. In addition, paying a recurring fee can give you the incentive to keep going and get the most from your membership. Most teachers (regardless of whether they charge a one-time fee or an ongoing membership), will accept payment by Paypal and/or credit and debit cards, and sometime other methods too, so online lessons are accessible to people throughout the world.

Guarantee

Reputable online guitar lesson programs always offer a money back guarantee if you’re not satisfied, so you can give them a try with peace of mind. Usually the guarantee is valid for 30 – 60 days, which should be plenty of time to try the lessons out and see if they’re what you’re looking for.

Free Trial

It’s also worth checking to see if the online guitar lessons that you’re interested in offer a free trial. Most high quality course providers have some free material on offer, so prospective customers can get a taste of their teaching style. So if free lessons are available, check them out before spending any money

Support

Another important consideration is the degree of support offered by the course provider. Teaching yourself to play guitar from home can be a lonely business, especially when you run into difficulties, and it can help a lot if there’s someone on hand to provide advice. While it’s unreasonable to expect extended hand holding, good courses will usually offer some form of support to customers who are having trouble with the course (or who just have questions), whether by email or via a private forum for course members. There are a few online teachers who provide one on one mentoring, although you will generally pay a premium for this. So whatever you think you may need in terms of support, be sure you find out what’s available before signing up.

Community

A related point is that of community. Some guitar lesson sites feature a discussion forum, or a social networking area or other means of connecting with other course members. This can be very useful, as you can get help with problems, and give and receive encouragement as you progress. While this kind of community isn’t essential when it comes to choosing online guitar lessons, it certainly is a nice bonus.

Bonuses

And talking of bonuses, some online courses feature various types of bonuses as well as the core course materials. Examples include software to help with learning to read music notation, guitar tuning software, and ear training aids. Bonus materials can complement the main course very well, and while bonuses shouldn’t be the main reason for selecting a course, they’re certainly worth considering.

As you see then, there are many things to consider when choosing online guitar lessons! While all this may feel a bit overwhelming, it’s worth taking the time to do your research and find the right course for your needs if you’re serious about learning to play the guitar well, especially if you’re a beginner. Don’t take advice from just anyone – instead, start off on the right foot with a course of high quality guitar lessons, and the whole learning process will be a lot faster and more enjoyable.

For more information about a large variety of online guitar courses, check out the Guitar Lessons and Training Directory. If you’re a beginner or intermediate guitarist looking for an excellent general course that will teach the fundamental skills you need, I recommend Jamorama – you can also read my in-depth review of Jamorama here.

Jamorama guitar lessons

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  4. Jamorama Review – My Experience With Jamorama’s Online Guitar Lessons
  5. Guitar Training Directory – Online Guitar Lessons & Resources A-Z
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